By Zainab Kanu
The National Elections Watch (NEW), in collaboration with the Independent Radio Network (IRN), has ended its Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) observation with commendation for NEC.
At a press conference held at the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) Headquarters in Freetown yesterday, the National Coordinator of IRN, Mr. Ransford Wright said they have observed the processes before, during and after the BVR and concluded that NEC has done a good job.
NEC, he said, has also introduced Ward Based voter education teams who were moving round educating the general public about the BVR and elections, although there were lapses in the process.According to Mr. Wright, the NEW/IRN observed the BVR in half of the 2,998 centers selected randomly in all 14 electoral Districts for three days in each of the four phases of observation they designed.
He said a voter registration observer report was created from a data generated by this observation as well as from regional and district meetings with NEW leadership and regular interaction with other Elections Management Bodies (EMBs) at district and regional level.
Stating their key findings during the observation, Mr. Wright claimed that the process of registration was well managed by NEC and noted that a number of instances of cross-border registration related to stakeholders differing interpretations of the term “ordinary resident”. They recommended that NEC should ensure the issue received greater clarity ahead of the exhibition process.
He also said that they took note of a small number of isolated cases of underage or attempted underage registration as they were concerned about the treatment of minors when subsequently arrested. They called on the attention of local community leaders not to abuse the privilege accorded them.
Mr. Wright also noted the fact that security coverage of the registration process was fully comprehensive and that there was an absence of serious violence throughout the period. He said they could prove that political parties were assisting in the transportation of registrants, an understandable practice particularly if the voter registration centers (VRCs) are not easily accessible to all wards of usual residence. However, he condemned the practice of bussing citizens outside their wards of usual residence.
Furthermore, Mr. Wright said that political parties agents were not paying full attention during the voter registration exercises, and they called on all political parties to ensure that honest and serious minded party agents were deployed during the coming elections in November.
However, he said that they were urging government officials, political party operatives to adhere to the Public Elections Act and the rule of law.